From the Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube channel.
Halloween offers an opportunity for Aeolus 13 Umbra to entertain two of its favorite subjects: the ghastly holiday itself and ambient music. While typically regarded as a contemplative soundbed for peaceful and positive meditation, ambient music also has a dark side. Not evil, but as the seasons shift from the vibrancy and warmth of summer to the cool autumn winds, so to do our thoughts change to meditations on our mortality, and inevitably to the afterlife and the spirit world.
Halloween Howls, released in 1999 by Gemstone Entertainment and posted above from the Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube channel, is one of several similarly named albums for All Hallows' Eve. Typically, these sort of holiday-themed CDs have a collection of campy Halloween sound effects, dialog, and maybe a ghost story or two. Halloween Howls, however, takes a more subtle approach. Moody and atmospheric, yes, there are the expected groans and moans and the cackling witch, but long periods of environmental noise mark this work, sometimes penetrated by a blood-curdling scream, a frantic heartbeat, a chainsaw, or slow, plodding footsteps that punctuate the silence. In real life, the only demons dogging us are the ones we create ourselves, but for those who have encountered crime, mental illness, and misfortune also know that the darker side of life, like a hurricane, can be a natural, unpredictable force unto itself.
If, by chance, Halloween happened never to have originated in late October, surely it would have to be moved there. In the Northeast, the colorful cacophony of leaves is past its peak and the transition to the dead and dormant state of winter, though still nearly two months away, is soon to settle in. The 21st century modern human seldom affords itself time for contemplation, private space, and to be alone with our thoughts. We are never too far away from our cell phones, computers, car radios, TV in office waiting rooms — all clamoring for our attention. Convenient distractions from our fears and which protect the tenuous psychological barriers that buffer our sanity from the stark reality of our fragile mortal existence.
Halloween Howls, whose composer remains a mystery, is not music per se, but if John Cage’s three-movement composition 4’33”, which consists entirely of the ambient noises of the listener’s environment, can be considered music then I think we can afford Halloween Howls some measure of inclusion into the ambient music world.